Misconceptions about USA

OK, what are we getting wrong? In quite a few threads, (mostly in GD, some in the Pit), people complain that we furriners have some very weird ideas about the US. Often this is about politics, but not always.

We are highly amused by people who assume they’ll see kangaroos on the main streets of Sydney; or that we don’t have indoor plumbing; or that the Queen can make any laws she chooses. :confused:

US people, what weird ideas do you get?

“In the U.S., everybody is armed.”

I was crossing the border into Canada a couple of years ago. The border guard asked, “Are you carrying any firearms?” I told him I wasn’t. He said, “Really? I thought everyone from Los Angeles carried a gun.” I told him I’d left them at home.

“In California, everyone is in the movie industry. Everyone does coke, and everyone is sleeping with someone else’s wife or husband. Californians are a bunch of tree-hugging hippies and New Age crystal-gazers, or they’re all very richies who flaunt their wealth. Californians are all Beautiful People. Californians are a bunch of flakes. If it’s weird, it’s from California.”

Many people are in the film industry. Most aren’t. Lots of people do drugs. Only one person I know personally does. Adultery happens everywhere, not just California. There are a lot of people who are concerned about the environment. Are these people a larger percentage than in other places? You wouldn’t think so, if you saw the numbre of SUVs on the road. A lot of Californians have a lot of money. Most do not. Many of those who have money, flaunt it. Some Californians are flakes. Some are not. Some Californians are Beautiful People, but I find women in Vancouver, BC to be prettier. Weird stuff does seem to come from California. On the other hand, I’m sure I can think of things in other places that we would find weird.

“Californians drive too fast and too close together.”

Okay, I’ll give you that one. :wink:

I’ve noticed a lot of foreigners…either don’t know or can’t wrap their minds around the sheer SIZE of the U.S.

The father of a girl I met in Europe was made redundant at his job, so he decided to travel around the world. He stayed at my place for a day or two. He thought he might just catch a buss (or something) to visit someone in Montana. He didn’t realize how far away Montana is from L.A. (Actually, it could have been Michigan where he wanted to go. One of those “M” states, anyway.)

Not in the US here, but common misconceptions we have of Americans are:

Americans have no sense of irony
They are mostly obese
They are all armed to the teeth
Its not that big a country!

That last myth was dispelled when I visited a few places there. I now know that its more appropiate to think of the states in the US as similar to the countries we have in Europe. The US is a huge place, and attitudes and ways of life differ hugely from on state to another.

Americans are stupid. Or so the British media seem to be fond of saying.

Which is why I am always amused when the (US) College Bowl winners kick the collective butts of the (UK) University Challenge winners all over the trivia map year after year. (Actually, I’m equally tickled when the Open University team beats any of the Oxbridge teams.)

When I was in Germany a few years back, I was asked by a school age kid if I had “ever seen an Indian”. And, he clearly meant it not in a “Do you know Joe down the street? He’s half Cherokee,” but rather a “How did you escape the roving tribes?” sense. I know a 5th grader isn’t the average person in Germany, but I thought it was a funny question.

Yea, one guy’s girlfriend’s eyes about popped out of her head when he told her how long it would take to drive from San Francisco to L.A. She was sputtering.

Agreed. One of my buddies was just over here from the UK. He decided to take a weekend trip up to NYC and was taking a bus that left around 7pm expecting to get in around 10 or so.

I had a hearty larf.

Some relatives of a friend visited from Germany. They were astonished to discover that every part of any direction they looked was actually owned and used or inhabited by somebody (in Indiana).

Strange. Almost everyone in Canada lives within 100-200 miles of the border. US is like Canada for 2000 miles south, only progressively more insufferably hotter. It’s too hot here, really.

I don’t like driving into the more crowded areas. Way too many cars and too many people. Interstate approaches into cities are intolerable. What is wrong with nature, I ask? All your cities look exactly the same, but they do in Canada too. Your TV shows are alikely horrendous, I threw out my TV long ago. Canadian shows are even worse.

I personally love the USA, and intend to retire there. But Arizona in a air-conditioned Winnebago. Visit Texas, my favourite state.

We get the size thing, too - and from Americans, often. No, you can’t drive from Sydney to Perth in an afternoon. It’s about the same distance as NY to LA!

I’ve been told - not asked, but TOLD - by a number of Irish people that “Christmas isn’t such a big holiday in America”. They’ve heard about Thanksgiving, you see, and apparently they think a country can’t have two really big holidays.

Hey ruadh, dunno about comparing with Ireland, but compared with Australia it’s true. The difference is that we have Xmas in summer, so it all gets mixed up together and people take really long breaks. Heaps of places will close for 2 weeks or a month over Xmas. In the US it seems to be the big actual day, but then it’s back to work pretty quick.

Being from the western U.S. (Montana, actually) the misconception I have most often encountered is that in rural western states – Monntana, Wyoming, New Mexico, etc. – it’s still about 1885. Cowboys! Indians! Everybody on horseback! Everybody in 10-gallon hats!

I’ve run into people who were surprised I knew how to drive, surprised the roads were paved, surprised I knew what a latte was, surprised I wasn’t raised on a ranch, surprised I don’t own a horse.

I’ve had friendly foreigners walk up to me and exclaim “Howdy!” apparently under the impression that’s the standard greeting. (Response: “Uhhhhh . . . howdy.”) And the distance thing is part of that:

JAPANESE TOURIST: How far to Yellowstone from here, please?
ME [car rental agent]: About six hours.
JAPANESE TOURIST (shaking head): No, no. Excuse me, how far to Yellowstone from here?
ME: About six hours.
JT: But we are taking car.
ME: Yes, about six hours in the car.
JT: To Yellowstone?
ME: Yes.
JT: From here?
ME: Yes.
JT: How many . . . ?
ME: Six hours. Have a nice day!

cajela that is because here in the States we are lucky to have 3 weeks a year for vacation. I have a very good vacation plan for this area and the job I do. I will get 4 weeks off starting in 2008. That is when I will have 15 years working here. And they just announced that after 25 years, we will be able to take 5 weeks off. None of this 13 weeks a year vacation for us. :frowning:

A couple I regularly hear;

US cities are far more dangerous than cities anywhere else in the world. Some years back a few tourists in Miami were car-jacked. A group of people were targeting rental cars by looking for the sticker on the back. Now people in the UK seem to think Miami is the US equivalent of Baghdad. South Central LA has a worse reputation in the UK than Afghanistan, Iraq and Noth Korea combined. People seem to think you have at least a 50/50 chance of getting shot.

The size thing. I have some friends going over to CA to do a road trip. Try as I might I can’t convince them driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas takes a day and is boring as hell (get on I-5, drive for about 5 hours, turn left at Bakersfield, drive for about 5 hours and you’ll see nothing of any interest)

Food. Nothing except Steak, Burgers, Ribs and Fries is available. “They have Sushi in CA?” I’ve heard more than once.

The CBI/UC matchup hasn’t happened since 1997, and for a lot of reasons that people outside the collegiate quizbowl community probably don’t care about, wouldn’t be considered representative of much of anything even if it was still going on.

Um, NO holiday is that big in America, probably for the reason Lok sets out. I’m not comparing holidays between countries - the point is that Irish people think Christmas isn’t that big in America because of Thanksgiving, which they seem to imagine towers above all over holidays in the American calendar.